Archive | January 2016

Small dogs on bikes

We have a dog!




Welcome to Team Family Ride, Pixie!

We used to have a dog, and I posted about biking with Bettie a few years ago: dog on the family bike. But she died a year and a half ago and being the change averse person that I am and having spent the last dozen years assuming Bettie would be our last dog ever, I’d been slowly working up to the idea of opening my heart to a new dog. And I’ve been working on negotiating pretend future dogs with the kids–because we are not getting six St Bernards, sweetie.

You may have noticed we’ve been biking around with a couple dogs since Labor Day. We’ve spent most of the last four months trading off dogsitting Marley and Pixie who weren’t getting along at their common home. We all hoped it was a temporary feud, but the time apart, help from a dog behaviorist, and anxiety-calming medications didn’t seem to do the trick so Pixie became an official member of our family five days ago.

Pixie likes riding in the front basket. I stick our old doggie bed in there, and put a baby blanket on top of her (or picnic blanket if it’s raining), and then put a cargo net over the whole thing with her head sticking through one of the holes.


I also have a doggie shoulder bag that I can put in the front basket (the mamabike, the tandem, and my Straggler all have front baskets) or on the mamabike’s FlightDeck.


I can even fit one kid in the back seat with her–here’s my friend’s kid keeping Pix company:


And Thursday we added a new dog biking method: the trailer! My little kid was home sick from school, but up for a little trip to the grocery store so I bundled him into the trailer with four blankets and Pixie.


She snuggled in for the ride, but explored the trailer once we parked. So maybe future trailer rides should have a harness involved to keep her secure. Unfortunately, Bettie’s old harness doesn’t fit Pixie. Pixie is a bit smaller than Bettie, but has some dachshund in her (and her previous family says Miniature Pinscher, too, but she seems more chihuahua-like to me) so her waist isn’t where our old harness expects it to be.



I brought the shoulder bag so I could bring Pixie in with us. No, dogs aren’t allowed in grocery stores here and it’s not OK just because everyone brings dogs into grocery stores here anyway. (Yes, really. Something about Seattle and everyone bringing dogs into grocery stores.) Just this once to help tend to the sick kid.


The only problem with my plan was that after shopping I couldn’t fit the small bag of groceries and the empty shoulder bag into the trailer’s cargo compartment. So I wore the bag. Just like empty trailers are easy to drag around, empty doggie purses are fine to wear draped awkwardly across one’s body…but I definitely wouldn’t want to ride with ten pounds of dog in the bag.


I think our systems work well enough, but there are some cool products out there.

That Swift Paloma Handlebar Bag on my trailer-pulling road bike attaches via a KlickFix adapter that can also hold a doggy carrier or the DoggyRide Cocoon. If either of those also fit snugly in some or all of my front baskets, that’d be awesome. The Timbuk2 Muttmover Backpack is adorable, but I’m not sure Pixie would like being stuck on my back.

I’ll probably just stick with what we have unless I see something free or cheap, but please do let me know in the comments if there’s another small-dog-on-bike product I should be aware of!

Biking in Eugene, Oregon

I just spent a wonderful weekend in the amazingly bike-friendly Eugene, Oregon. I took the train–Amtrak Cascades allows roll-on bike service for $5 (reserve ahead of time to guarantee a bike spot). The trip is six and a half hours and is often early (my train was 20 minutes early, even with some fire alarm business and the forced detraining of a bathroom cigarette smoker in the middle of nowhere–Amtrak doesn’t mess around!). One can also take BoltBus between Seattle and Eugene, but I think it might be seasonal…I can see bookable trips in February when I click around now, but I wasn’t able to find trips back when I was booking this visit. We’ve taken the cargo bike on BoltBus to Portland, but it’s an as-space-allows thing when it comes to bikes so I prefer Amtrak and the guaranteed bike spot (though cargo bikes aren’t allowed).


Saturday morning I kicked off the day with an Urban Cycling book reading at Arriving By Bike™, a terrific and super-friendly family-owned bike shop. It was a good-sized crowd, especially for 9am on a Saturday. I should have taken a photo from the front, but I was a little busy talking about how much I love biking so check out these snaps by Kent Peterson:

After the reading, Shane MacRhodes, creator of Kidical Mass, led a group bike ride. I cannot tell you how exciting it was for me to be in the birth city of Kidical Mass! Not to mention seeing several friends who live down here, including the aforementioned Kent Peterson who recently moved down from Issaquah, and my friend Victor who just moved down from my neighborhood. They both seem to have found heaven on earth in Eugene.


I met Shane in Seattle when he taught my League Cycling Instructor class, but I hadn’t seen his striking Bike Friday Haul-a-Day cargo bike in person before now.


And since his trailer bike is a Burley Piccolo like mine, I was able to borrow it and one of his kids! (Kid was more stoked than photo lets on.)


There was quite a bit of kid shuffling and at one point, they were all three on separate bikes. So fun!

Photo by Sally Hunt

Photo by Sally Hunt

The amazing weather made our trip along roads and trails, across the river and back, all the more enjoyable. Just look at that sun!

Photo by Sally Hunt

Photo by Sally Hunt


Seattleite Neil Hodges paid a bike visit to Eugene a week ahead of mine and I was inspired his photos to check out some of the same places and same murals. Kent Peterson shared The Murals of Eugene on Twitter so I got a nice preview.

I got the idea to take note of murals after the Kidical Mass group ride when I rode with Sally Hunt to Bike Friday and decided we should recreate Neil’s photo.

Photo by Sally Hunt

Photo by Ron Hunt

Much of their showroom fleet was over at the fairgrounds for the Eugene Home Show, but there was still plenty to see and the first question as we entered was, “Are you here to test ride?”

By the way, many of my friends in Eugene have Bike Fridays. I love the hometown pride!

Sunday I went back by Arriving By Bike™ to sign the remaining books and my friend Maritess, also down from Seattle, humored me with a photo by ABB’s mural. See, too, ABB from the outside:

IMG_4699 IMG_4694

Another mural at Sundance Natural Foods, Victor’s favorite grocery store:


And two on the way to the train station, a block after the Ninkasi Brewery on the left, and at Morning Glory Cafe across the street from the train station (with awesome bike rack I want to climb!) on the right:

IMG_4725 IMG_4726

Had Sunday not been so drizzly, there would have been even more mural stops.

Bicycle Infrastructure

Saturday’s group ride took two of the five (I think) walking-and-biking-only bridges across the Willamette River. The trails (a.k.a. multi-use paths) and car-free bridges are awesome.

Then on Sunday Maritess on her folding Brompton and I on my non-folding Surly Straggler biked around with Eugenians Jolene and Victor on their folding Bike Fridays.


Near University of Oregon we used the two-way cycletrack and I hear there are more to come:


I also quite liked this covered cut-through:


The City of Eugene has a Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan and a Pedestrian & Bicycle Strategic Plan Update, but also some pushback from a couple businesses on much needed bike lanes. I’m not sure I’ll see any new developments come May, but Eugene is currently pretty great to bike around.


My photos aren’t worth sharing and I didn’t see any of the promised deer, but on Saturday I saw a nutria with Sally! I found this very exciting because I didn’t know they lived out here–I’ve only seen then in New Orleans (where they’re called jokingly “cajun chicken”).

The nutria sighting was right in town alongside a bike trail by a small river, but uphill towards Victor’s house we saw wild turkeys! And stopped a car to let them cross the street. I hear there’s a cougar in his neighborhood, but we didn’t see it.

Riding home through Amazon Park Saturday night I heard what I thought were crickets from far away, and then assumed was a burglar alarm as I got closer. Turns out it was bullfrogs! I don’t know if they were extra loud for the full moon, but they were deafening.


Next time!

I cannot wait to come back to Eugene. A weekend is not enough time to do it all.

I’ll be back on Friday May 20th to be part of the University of Oregon LiveMove presentation series. And hang around for Bike Month activities through the weekend. I missed out on seeing the Center for Appropriate Transport so that’s at the top of my list of things to do.

And once school lets out, the kids and I will come down for a longer visit. We’ll probably travel by train without a bike and rent a cargo bike upon arrival, but perhaps we’ll take the Big Dummy on BoltBus or three separate bikes on the train…but I think we’re still a couple years away from them being in charge of all their own pedaling–I worry about the trip to and from the Seattle train station as well as an entire weekend in an unfamiliar city.

City bike with Bobike Junior kid seat

Behold the latest incarnation of the old mamabike: new Bobike junior kid seat.


I got the Bianchi Milano Citta in April 2009 with a two-year old and a six-month-pregnant belly. Up to that point, I’d been riding a too-big beach cruiser with Bobike mini kid seat on the front for a year, but decided I couldn’t make do with one gear in hilly Seattle with two kids. I moved the Bobike mini to the new bike and was suddenly able to bike more and more and more!

April 2009

April 2009

Here is the chronological list of add-ons to the old mamabike (though possibly with a couple things forgotten):

  • Bobike mini kid seat
  • Bobike mini windshield
  • Burley solo trailer with infant car seat
  • Bobike maxi kid seat (trailer retired)
  • Different rear rack to fit Wald folding baskets
  • Pletscher double kickstand
  • Swapped rear derailleur for internally-geared hub
  • Longer stem to accommodate front kid knees
  • Longer longer stem to accommodate front kid knees
  • Bobike mini retired
  • Back to longer stem (can’t locate original stem)
  • Bobike junior (Bobike maxi retired)
May 2010

May 2010

July 2010

July 2010

I used to look forward to the day I would reclaim the front of the bike for myself and put a basket on it, but it’s been a couple years and I haven’t done it yet. I couldn’t put something too big up front that would interfere with the bus bike rack since having a family bike that fits on the bus–even though it doesn’t carry both kids anymore–is the reason we keep the old mamabike around.

The Bobike junior is a great seat with a 75-pound weight limit. It only has a lap belt and therefore shouldn’t hold a kid younger than five. The Bobike maxi has a three-point harness and maxes out at 50 pounds, but even the sub-50-pound kid was getting too tall to sit comfortably. And the best part: it folds down for stealth mode.









Maybe the foot pegs keep it from being too stealthy:


We almost didn’t take the old mamabike today. We typically only use it to go to the orthodontist in Issaquah, which is 20 miles from home. Our first bus is five blocks from home, the second bus is one block from where the first one lets off, and then it’s one mile to the orthodontist. We’ve left the bikes at home and hoofed it a couple times lately and it’s been fine. We don’t do a lot of walking and a couple years ago the thought of walking a whole mile not for the purpose of using up three hours of the day was inconceivable. But now we can totally walk a mile! Though this time I had planned to take skateboard, longboard, and scooter just to mix things up, but the kids voted for bikes at the last minute. Seattle buses have spots for three bikes on the racks, but I feel safer taking just two bikes in case one slot is in use.


And hooray for having taken bikes! We skipped the second bus and biked the five miles home. We saw a friend bike by and shouted hello at one another, then we discovered a public bike repair station (500 9th Avenue)…and then another one just a block later!


We stopped at the grocery store for as much stuff as I could squeeze onto the old mamabike, and then the best part: we stumbled upon the History House orca! It used to hang from the ceiling of the outdoor seating area shared by History House and Milstead & Co. cafe and many Kidical Mass rides have gathered under it.


Routes to Auburn

Friday, while the kids were at school, I biked down to Auburn to check out the grand opening of Green River Cyclery and the Busted Bike Cafe. I had seen it in friends’ Instagram pictures and knew it was softly open, and then Kyla, one of the owners, posted about the two-day grand opening on Wheelwomen Switchboard (“…a place for women who love bicycling to connect with each other, share resources and ideas, and help each other succeed”). I deemed it too far to ride with the kids on Saturday, but was happy I could check it out solo on Friday.

Normally I carefully research routes to new places–at the least by what I know of the area and often by checking friends (or casting a wider net on twitter). But this time I just decided to be lazy and follow the Google maps app on my phone for the 30 miles/2.5 hour ride (which in case you don’t know me well, is much much much much longer than my usual trip). Turns out it was a pretty crappy route. I’ve taken (and disliked) 1st Avenue South before because there aren’t a lot of options for getting to Georgetown, but since I was going beyond Georgetown, I could and should have avoided it. Then East Marginal Way South was even worse. But after the two unpleasant stroads, the Green River Trail and Interurban Trail were great.


Once home, I checked with my knowledgeable friend Andrew Squirrel who bikes allllllll over the place plus commutes down thataway and got some terrific advice:

Here are my 3 commute alternatives I use most often to get from Fremont to Tukwila/Kent area in the safest way possible. There is also a 4th option that cuts through parking lots at Boeing Field / Airport Way but that usually sucks because it gets extremely windy.
#1, #2, #3.


Also if you want to match the bike/bus combo try catching the 150 bus somewhere in the tunnels and it pops on the interstate then gets off in Tukwila right at the Green River Trail near the golf course/casinos or stay on until you hit Fort Dent/Starfire.

As I suspected while looking at maps after the fact, and before receiving Andrew’s advice, option #2: crossing the West Seattle swing bridge and taking the Duwamish trail to the Green River Trail is the most pleasant.

And John offered “pro tip: take light rail to/from tukwila, save most of the boring miles!”

For this trip I took the 578 back north from right by the shop to REI (and then just a 3-mile bike ride home) because there wasn’t enough time to bike all the way home before the kids got out of school.

So now I know for next time. And there will be a next time–but probably on a kid-free weekend when I can take my time and ride both directions the whole way. And when it’s not rainy–this first trip was so rainy! But still worth it. The kids and I were almost this far south four years ago, but that was mostly by bus. So it was really cool to ride past and beyond the ShoWare Center on this trip. Light railing with the kids might work, but it’s still 13.5 trail miles at the end, as well as at least 5 miles, including un-kid-friendly downtown streets, to get to light rail. It’s too long a ride for them to sit on the Big Dummy without being bored and the tandem probably wouldn’t fit in our closest (Westlake) light rail station so that makes for an even longer ride. It probably makes sense to take three separate bikes, though my bike would be the Big Dummy in case I need to carry one or both kids at any point. Ooh, this is starting to sound pretty fun and will surely be a summertime excursion.

University Street transit tunnel

Four years ago

The shop was great and Kyla is awesome. She made a point of telling me about the things of particular interest to me: they had some balance bikes, but already sold them all! They’ll get more. Same for unicycles. And they’re probably going to put a Surly Big Dummy on the floor. And right now they have the smallest Surly Straggler in stock. My “me” bike is a Straggler, but I didn’t ride it down because the front basket makes it bad for putting on the bus bike rack (I think it would stay on there OK, but my road bike with no front rack is even better). I put the “me” of “me bike” in quotes since my rear rack is a Burley Moose Rack (with some welding work by Haulin’ Colin to make it play nice with the unique placement of the rack eyelets) so I can hook my Burley Piccolo trailercycle to my bike. I’ve only used the Piccolo once with my kids since it’s hard to convince one to ride with me and one to ride solo, but on a recent trip to Portland I borrowed a friend’s Piccolo and kid and that was awesome!


My Straggler is also a cargo bike, with a Haulin’ Colin trailer hitch. My friend in the neighborhood Velotron said I could borrow his trailer whenever I want if I had my own hitch. Which is maybe a little silly considering I have a cargo bike already, but it was too good an offer to pass up! I recently used his trailer for the first time, but only to carry him to our neighborhood’s new cat cafe. Next time will be for something more exciting, like a refrigerator.


So yeah, Green River Cyclery is awesome and Surly Stragglers are awesome–even if you want to just use one as a regular bike. Next time I visit Auburn will be with my Straggler. Oh, and the kid I hauled on my Straggler in Portland rides one, too! Similar build as in this Hiawatha Cyclery: Surly Straggler kids’ bike blog post.

Christmas tree bonfire 2016

…or the rise and fall of Mr. Cutey-Pants

A new Christmas tree lot sprung up in our neighborhood this year so we stuck to our easiest-possible tree option and went there–half a mile! (Last year’s tree trip was mile and a half to the adjacent neighborhood.) The seven-block trip meant the kids could ride their own bikes there and back for a new touch. p.s. uphill there, downhill home, so that was nice for me as the tree toter. Next year I think we’ll grab our tree on a weekend so we can get a daylight picture…because it’s all about the photo op ;)


I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to carry both kids and tree like last year because no bike load really feels like it “counts” if I don’t also have to squeeze the kids on. I’m sure this feeling will fade as the kids ride their own bikes more and more. But then I did get a chance to carry kids and conifer to the bonfire. Last year I left the kids behind, but carried two trees for double the fun. I was sad to see my neighbor had chopped his huge tree up and stick it in the yard waste bin because that made for a fun load last year…though there’s no way I could have fit kids with all that tree. And again with the early sunset: we dashed out to take a picture with our lone tree halfway through getting ready for the bonfire while there was still a bit of light.


There were some impressive trees on the ride. Lots of people strap them to their backs–trees even bigger than ours! And lots of trailers piled with multiple trees–I think even six in one case.


The bonfire was awesome, but we didn’t stay long given the late hour.


The kids are usually asleep by 8pm, but we stayed out until 9pm and didn’t get home until 10pm. I was impressed that they stayed awake most of the way home, but my six-year old conked out around 9:40 and my eight-year old ten minutes later.


Here’s the part where I hope no one is still reading and feel obligated to share the coal as well as the candy canes…

Overall, it was a terrific night and the kids had a blast. But evening rides are tricky. Even in the summer I find it hard to leave for an afternoon ride from home so we tend to make a big day of it, leaving home at 10am and gradually making our way to the ride start. For this ride, school got out at 3:45 and we left home at 4:45 while we still had energy and momentum. We stopped for sushi dinner on the way to the start of the bonfire ride. One kid only eats sockeye salmon nigiri–and a lot of it–which isn’t technically part of the “coal” of the evening, but his expensive tastes are going to keep us away from sushi for a while! He spit out a bad grape at one point (not too big a deal), but his brother ate two pieces of an avocado roll too quickly and puked them out onto the table at the end of our meal. Fun, fun.

We headed to Westlake Park 45 minutes early so the kids could play in the little playground. Of course they were already hungry again so I bought two little bags of chips at the hot dog stand. The one kid opted to save his for later and the other ate his at the top of the climbing structure. He spilled half of them (if only he had listened to his mother who suggested he eat them at ground level!), but seemed more apologetic about the mess than sad about the lost treat.

Minutes later my snack spiller tripped while attempted a leap onto the silver climbing mounds and face planted into one. That led to a lot of screaming and a little bit of blood, but he bounced back surprisingly quickly.

One good part! I was able to convince them both to don rain pants over their regular pants for an extra layer of warmth. They’re often not keen to layer up…we’re still getting into the hang of dressing for cold weather. Mind you, this is preceded by many reminders that there will be extra layering up at some point. It helps immensely to introduce the idea (and reiterate multiple times) of later layering when everyone is inside and complacent.

Pulling out of Westlake Park, I lost the red blinky light off the back of the tree. In retrospect, I had it on for the important solo part of our ride to the start and I think it fell off right in the park so hopefully someone found it and is putting it to good use (thanks again, Planet Bike, for the box of lights! A few for the kids, but most have been passed along to grateful friends in need).

I think they enjoyed the ride and I pointed out the people they had met before, but they tend to keep to themselves in groups so they didn’t return any greetings. I tried to convince them to sit facing one another so they could chat (“Talk about secret stuff!” as they like to say), but they felt they fit best with the front kid forward and the rear kid sidesaddle. Had the tree not been so crunchy, they may have been fine each draping one leg over it.

Somewhere along the way I lost the saved bag of chips from my front basket. Some days that would have been met with yelling and punching, but either the excitement of the ride or the late hour, meant the chipless kid was only mildly upset.

The next little hiccup was upon arriving at the beach when my eight-year old saw the NO BONFIRES sign. Fortunately, it also said EXCEPT IN DESIGNATED AREAS so I was able to convince him our bonfire was legit. He’s a mini police officer and a stickler for all rules. We watched a few trees burn, but my six-year old was done pretty quickly (he warned me ahead of time he didn’t like looking at fire because it makes his eyes water) so we headed out.

While I was unlocking the bike the eight-year old spent a minute mourning the loss of Mr. Cutey-Pants. Oh, I forgot to mention they named our tree and were initially opposed to the idea of burning it. I think next year we’ll look into getting a Trees for Salmon live tree from Swansons Nursery. I joke that the only reason I get a tree in the first place is to burn it so I’ll ask my neighbor for dibs on his tree post-Christmas before it’s too late.

* puke
* spilled chips
* screaming
* blood
* lost light
* lost chips
* suspicion of illegal fire
* smoke-in-the-eyes
* mourning of burned tree

Merry bonfire!

Here’s to family biking in 2016

We kicked off the new year with a big, bikey weekend. Hope you did, too.

Saturday was our first time to Carkeek Park by bike. Yippee! I haven’t been to Carkeek Park in five years–since back when I stopped driving regularly. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get back there, though I had thoughts about riding over solo to see if it might not be too hilly on a family bike.


I almost didn’t brave the trip, but friends (who have two Big Dummies and two tandems!) were in town playing at the park and I felt inspired…and they used to live here and were able to give me route advice. I opted for the tandem-plus-trailer-bike thinking a bit of pedaling would keep the kids warmer. It was too long and uphill to consider letting them ride their own bikes (not to mention the untested route). I’d like to ride the tandem more and more often this year. And maybe the kids will even start pedaling at some point!


The five-mile mostly gradual uphill ride to the QFC on Holman Road isn’t something I’d want to do every day, but it’s fine every so often. Then the one mile of Pipers Creek Trail was hard-packed dirt and wonderful. Though there was a steep downhill set of switchbacks on the way in. Fortunately the kids decided they wanted to walk the scary downhill part and I was able to ride down with the empty train. It was magical and frost-covered along the trail…moreso around the bend behind the kids, but I had them back on the bike by then. They were amenable to walking back up the hill on the way out, too, thank goodness. I had them detrain once we were already on the steep part and couldn’t get the bike rolling up the somewhat icy trail, but I think I could ride it up empty starting lower down.


The kids were pretty cold by the time we got home, though we’ve certainly had colder and more uncomfortable rides. Playing outside isn’t something we do often in the winter and it’s even rougher when flanked by sitting on a bike for over an hour on either side.

Sunday I opted to take the Big Dummy for our ride to the Seattle Aquarium (Wolf Eel Day! Our fave!), figuring I could wrap the kids up better sitting on the deck. The front little kid wore an old adult snowboard jacket as an extra top layer and my wool sweater tied around his waist as an apron to cover his feet. And the rear kid tucked his feet into the Xtracycle FreeLoader bags (which means I can’t fill them up with crap) and I tied an adult rain jacket around his waist to cover his legs. I wouldn’t call them toasty warm, but they were comfortable enough to stop and skip rocks across the frozen model boat pond at Lake Union Park–it makes an amazing sound!


This isn’t a “first” of the same caliber as biking to Carkeek, but I locked up to the Parking Squid for the first time. I used to consider it much too far from the entrance of the aquarium, but the kids are much better walkers at six and eight and I don’t seem to travel with as much stuff these days. Mostly it’s a shame to have to cross a busy street when parking at the Parking Squid so next time I might choose between the octopus bike rack which is just as far away (But covered! That would have been nice given the unexpected drizzle.) or our summer spot locked to a railing on the side of the building.


I’m not much on New Year’s resolutions since killin’ it fifteen years ago with “Eat every item off the Taco Bell menu over the course of the year” because how does one top that? Nor am I much at kicking off the New Year with bike proclamations, always having recently done an annual recap for the Big Dummy’s birthday. But I do resolve to figuring out our layers so the kids are warm enough on the bike. I think we might ride Chilly Hilly–I’ve done it twice solo and once with just the smaller kid. I’ve been thinking about ordering a bunch of chemical heat packs, but I hate disposable things. Though now I see there are things like HotSnapZ Reusable Hand Warmers! Anyone have experience with those? I’m tempted to try them on the kids. And maybe on my toes.

And I even have a resolution for myself, but it’s kind of a boring one: sleep more. But always a good one. And sure to lead to easier mornings, more happiness, and a better memory (she types at 11pm…)

I also need to contribute to an article with my hopes for bicycling in Seattle in 2016. Haven’t yet decided what to write. Obvs, I should sleep on it.